ALBANY – State Sen. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, today attended a memorial gathering marking the one-year anniversary of the Cuomo Administration’s order that sent COVID-positive patients directly into New York’s nursing homes.
Oberacker told the gathering he is co-sponsoring a Senate Resolution (J554) which would designate March 25 as “We Care” Remembrance Day.
Those are the two concepts people in government and the tourist industry are using in discussing the news that the two youth-baseball camps, Dreams Park in Hartwick Seminary and All Star Village in West Oneonta, are seeking permission to open someway, somehow, in the 2021 season.
“If they can conform to the state’s requirements and do it safely, they should be allowed to open,” said Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch. Others interviewed echoed her sentiment.
Dreams Park is planning to extend its season from May to September, with fewer players, who would stay on-campus, as in the past. (Early, it was incorrectly reported that the players would stay off-campus.)
All must present negative COVID tests on arrival. Dreams Park’s local lawyer, Gar Gozigian, is looking for state Health Department guidance and permission to proceed.
All Star Village issued a more general statement, saying it would implement all health and safety measures, and concluding, “As things change we are confident restrictions will expire and we will update.”
COOPERSTOWN – Partisan perspectives led to lively debates this morning at the February meeting of the county Board of Representatives, but the three related resolutions were blunted or failed to reach the floor.
First, a resolution – to chide Assemblyman John Salka and state Sen. Peter Oberacker for a bill specifying New Yorkers can refuse the COVID vaccine – was watered down into a neutral statement asking the state Legislature to do what it could to expedite inoculations. It passed unanimously.
Second came two warring resolutions on violence – the Republican one decrying the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol AND violence at Black Lives Matter protests over the summer; the Democratic one decrying just the Jan. 6 assault. Both failed to garner sufficient support.
ICE HARVEST – 7 p.m. Hanford Ice Harvest goes online. Presenting ‘Winter’s Coolest Crop: Ice Harvesting History and Culture’ with staff Liz Callahan, Andrew Robichaud, assistant professor of History whose in-progress book is a history of the ice trade in North America. They will also discuss the annual festival celebrates this community tradition. Free, registration required. Presented by Hanford Mills Museum, East Meredith. 607-278-5744 or visit www.hanfordmills.org
SCHENEVUS – The Schenevus Central School Alumni Association and its Alumni of Distinction Committee today announced state Sen. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, will be one of four honorees at the second annual Alumni of Distinction Awards at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4, via Zoom.
The three other honorees will be:
Robert Barnes, county fire coordinator/emergency manager for nine years and Oneonta fire chief and emergency manager for 19 years.
William Fredette, attending physician/medical director, Fox Pediatrics, Oneonta.
Timothy French, Bassett Hospital chief resident and, for the last 13 years, hospitalist at Catholic Medical Center, Manchester, N.H.
This could be the begining of a beautiful friendship.
Fresh from his swearing-in as state Sen. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, in his hometown fire hall at 1:08 p.m. New Year’s Day, the freshman signaled he is planning to collaborate with Assemblyman John Salka, R-Brookfield, on two key pieces of legislation:
One, as he promised during the campaign, Oberacker plans to introduce legislation mirroring Salka’s to overturn the Democrats’ bail reform, which has allowed suspects in petty and some less-petty crimes to be immediately released.
Two, the new senator is planning to carry the flag in the upper house for Salka’s counter-legislation to two Democratic bills requiring New Yorkers to be vaccinated for COVID-19 or, in one of the bills, face possible detention. “That should be a personal choice,” said Oberacker.
“Peter and I have become good friends,” the second-term assemblyman said Tuesday, Jan. 5, the first day of the 2021 session. “I’m excited about having a member of the Senate to consider and possibly carry our legislation through this session.”
Both men appeared Tuesday morning via Zoom on the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce’s State of the State meeting.
Afterwards, Oberacker, his Chief of Staff (and former campaign manager) Ron Wheeler, and his Communications Director Jeff Bishop headed to Albany, where the senator has been assigned Office 506 in the Legislative Office Building in Empire State Plaza.
Salka was clearing his desk in his Oneida office, planning to head up to Albany Wednesday.
To help continuity between his predecessor, state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, who represented Otsego County in Albany for 34 years, the new senator will occupy Seward’s Oneonta office on South Main Street.
He has also kept most of Seward’s staff, except his chief of staff, Duncan Davie, the former Oneonta town supervisor, who retired.
Already, Oberacker said in an interview Monday, Jan. 4, constituents are calling, seeking his assistance.
The foremost issue is COVID-fueled unemployment. “I’ve had many inquiries. A lot of folks are wanting to know what should they do, how they should go about it.” He convened a staff meeting that afternoon “to put together an action plan.”
The second issue came out of the Mohawk Valley, where RemArms, controlled by Roundhill Group LLC, described in news reports as “a group of experienced firearms manufacturing and hunting industry professionals,” is seeking to work around the United Mine Workers in reopening the Ilion plant.
The plant, which has traditionally employed many people from Northern Otsego County, was sold to RemArms when Remington was broken up under the supervision of U.S. Bankruptcy Court, according to www.syracuse.com.
Oberacker said he has been seeking to ensure to clear red tape and allow the plant to reopen as soon as possible.
The new senator attended two days of orientation at the state Capitol in mid-December, “to get to know my fellow senators,” and to get guidance from “the vast knowledge that incumbents have. It harkens back to being a freshman on campus.”
Asked about the chances of overturning bail reform, Salka pointed out that Upstate Democrats like Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon, D-Marcy, support him, suggesting he may win votes from across the aisle on his measure.
“We’re hoping to present these bills” – bail reform and blocking mandatory vaccinations – “and get bi-partisan support,” he said.
Meanwhile, he pointed out, Job One will be “the 800-pound gorilla in the room – the $16 billion deficit,” which has risen from $10 billion in a year due to COVID challenges.
COOPERSTOWN – Democratic unhappiness over how state Sen. Peter Oberacker was replaced on the county board spilled over at today’s reorganizational meeting.
County Board Chair David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, was reelected, but the vote was 10-3, plus one abstention. And not before Bliss was criticized for partisanship, poor communication and a lack of vision.
“The people of the county deserve a county chair who puts the good of the county above party and does not work the rules for partisan advantage,” said Michelle Farwell, D-Morris, one of two reps speaking out against Bliss’ reelection.
The other was Jill Basile, D-Oneonta, who said, “We saw our lack of transparency, partisanship and poor communications in the appointment of the District 6 representative,” Jennifer Mickle, R-Town of Maryland, who succeeded Oberacker.
Peter Oberacker is sworn in at 1 p.m. today in the Schenevus Fire Hall as state senator for the 51st District, which includes Otsego and nine other Central New York Counties. His wife Shannon holds the Bible. About 20 friends and well-wishers attended, the number limited by COVID precautions. A reception followed at FormTech Solutions, Oberacker’s business on Route 7 east of the hamlet. Inset, Oberacker’s FormTech partner and campaign manager, Ron Wheeler, is sworn in as Maryland town supervisor. His wife Christine holds the Bible. Town Justice Joseph Staruck, a fellow local judge for 28 years with Oberacker’s late mother, Carol, administered both oaths. Oberacker, who was a three-term county representatives for the Schenevus area (Maryland, Worcester, Westford and Decatur), succeeds state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, who represented the county in Albany for 34 years. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
It was 2013. The issue was fracking. And four prominent local Republicans knocked on Vince Casale’s door.
“It was conveyed to me that the party was in some trouble,” said Casale, who last week advised the Republican County Committee he is resigning as chairman.
“My work is done,” he said. “It’s time for a change.”
He recommended Lori Lehenbauer of Worcester, Republican county elections commissioner, as his successor.
His seven years spanned the tenures of four of his Democratic counterparts.
In 2013, the first Democrat elected to countywide office in memory, Dan Crowell, was running for reelection unopposed, Casale recalled.
There was a shortage of candidates and, “when people were asked to run, they were just left to themselves.”
The committee had been using raffles to raise money – that was illegal, it turned out, leading to a sizable fine.
“At the time, I was consulting,” Vince recounted the other day – he still operates the Cooperstown-based Casale Group with his wife, Lynn Krogh, most recently helping guide state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker’s campaign. “I was very happy.”
But the GOP contingent told him, “We need to win races. You know how to win races.”
Remembers Casale, “With the blessing of Senator Seward, I was good to go. I took over in September,” two months before the fall elections.
“The first thing we do is run polling,” a first in local races. It discovered not only newcomers, but longtime incumbents were in tight races, he said. “It’s going to be a drubbing like we’d never seen.”
Fracking had damaged the Republicans, but by then it had been discovered there was too little natural gas here to frack. The issue “was just at or past the peak,” Casale said.
“I told the candidates: Don’t mention it. It wasn’t that we wanted it or didn’t want it. It was political survival,”
The new message: Republicans will protect your tax dollars.
“Rick Hulse was down by over 20 points when we first did that poll,” said Casale. “I remember him cutting it to 14 points. I had him down to 7 points. ‘If we only had one more week,’ I told myself.
“I went into Election Day thinking we would lose the Town of Otsego,” including most of Cooperstown, he said. “We ended up winning by 10 points.”
Republicans Janet Quackenbush and Craig Gelbsman also won in Democratic Oneonta, and Len Carson, the retired fire captain.
Casale, then 40, was no stranger to politics. At age 5, he was handing out pencils at county fairs on behalf of his father, Assemblyman Tony Casale of Herkimer.
During school breaks, young Vince would ask to accompany his dad to Albany.
A music major, he taught for a few years before joining Herkimer Arc, then the community college, as development director.
He started the Casale Group in 2007. His first campaign: Cooperstown’s Mike Coccoma, for state Supreme Court. The next year, John Lambert for county judge. “The company just kind of grew,” he said. “I had a decision to make: Continue as is, or make the jump.” And jump he did.
This year, he managed the elevation of county Judge Brian Burns of Oneonta to replace the retiring Coccoma, and the campaign of county Rep. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, to succeed Seward, keeping both influential positions in Otsego County.
Now, he and Lynn are busy, but looking forward to 2022, the next gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races.
It’s a bit of a Christmas story, coming out of the Otsego County Board of Representatives, of all things.
It involves at least four of Pope Gregory’s “Seven Virtues” – Charity, Patience, Kindness and Equanimity. (The Seven Deadly Sins, of course, have a higher profile.)
Famously, talk is cheap, when it comes to bipartisanship (and generally). But three county representatives – Andrew Marietta, Andrienne Martini and Andrew Stammel – talked that talk AND walked that walk in recent days.
The winner: Objective governance for the good of all 59,493 of us,
Republicans, Democrats, Conservatives, Working Family Party member, small “i” and Big “I” i(I)ndependents, Libertarians, etc.
By the county board’s December meeting on the 2nd, it was clear the Republicans had put themselves in a trap that could have lost them majority control for only the second time since the Board of Representatives was created in the early 1970s.
No need to relive every particular, but when state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker resigned Monday, Nov. 16, the Republicans fast-tracked the succession.
Democrats only found out about plans to seat Oberacker’s hand-picked successor, Jennifer Mickle, the day before the Thursday, Nov. 19, Administration Committee meeting, too late to come up with their own candidate.
The Admin Committee, 3-1, on party lines, then approved Mickle, (who, aside from the controversy, appears to be an able candidate). Without Admin approval, Democrats needed a 2/3rd majority to have their candidate even considered by the full board.
For a while, it looked like ill-will and recriminations would be the gifts under the county Christmas tree this year.
The Republicans, it seems, hadn’t fully considered how this might play out: With Oberacker’s seat vacant, neither party had a majority under the county’s complicated weighted-voting system.
So neither party could fill the vacancy without at least one vote from the other party.
And the Democrats, at least some of them, were incensed, and in no mood to play nice.
If the vacancy stood, the Republicans couldn’t have appointed the board’s chair or vice chair Jan. 2 at the annual reorganizational meeting. Or name the committee chairs, or control committee membership.
All decisions would have had to be bipartisan.
Out of power since 2008, the Democrats now held all the cards.
Including the fairness card. Not fairness to the Republicans, but to the 3,456 voters in Oberacker’s District 6 (Maryland, Worcester, Westford and Decatur).
At the Dec. 2 full county board meeting, Marietta, Martini and Stammel were profiles in fairness. All decried the rushed (and partisan) process. But Martini put it this way: “Leaving that district without representation for a year just doesn’t sit well.”
So the three Democrats handed control of the county board – at least until Nov. 4, 2021, the next Election Day – back to the Republicans.
(Also kudos to the board’s sole Conservative, Meg Kennedy, who scheduled a second Admin meeting to interview the Democratic nominee, former Worcester supervisor Diane Addesso, a goodwill gesture, even though it was too late to make a difference.)
To end where we began: Talk is cheap.
Most Democrats and some Republicans have been touting bipartisanship in board deliberations.
But Marietta, Martini and Stammel have shown that, to them, it’s a way of governing, worth more than numerical control.
Well done. Let’s hope, at least for the next year, bipartisanship will rule.
We’ve been here before, with an opposite outcome: In 2006, the Republican representative from Worcester, Don Lindberg, allied himself with the Democratic minority and achieved the board’s chairmanship.
The anger generated by that deal prevented any friendly compromise for the next two years. A recurrence has now been prevented.
‘…Leaving that district without
representation for year…doesn’t sit well.’
Editor’s Note: These were the comments from county Rep. Adrienne Martini, D-Oneonta, prior to voting for the Republican nominee to succeed state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, on the county board.
‘I agree with (county Rep. Clark Oliver, D-Oneonta) that the process was a little bumpy, and there were problems with it. It’s also not a process we do on a regular basis. If it should happen again in the near future, I hope that we will remember what we’ve learned.
“I’ve gone back and forth on how I’ll vote. Ultimately I come down where (Rep. Keith McCarty, R-East Springfield) does, which is leaving that district without representation for a year just doesn’t sit well.
“We only have 30 days from Representative Oberacker’s resignation to fill the seat by board vote. In a perfect world, the Governor could call for a special election, but the odds of that ever happening are low.
“Additionally, the county would have to bear the cost of having a special election, which is an expense we cannot afford right now. We are still in the middle of a pandemic and it is getting worse in our county.
“The board needs to have a voice from every single district as we face the next few months, which might be even more bleak than the spring was.
“The candidate who was appointed will be up for election in November and her constituents will have a year’s worth of her votes to consider. I hope all parties field a candidate for this seat then so that the voters can decide.
“Because of all of this, I will vote yes on this nominee.”
COOPERSTOWN – After expressions of bitterness among fellow Democrats, three of them crossed party lines today to appoint Oneonta businesswoman Jennifer Mickle, a Republican, to succeed state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker as District 6 county representative.
Voting for Mickle were Democratic county Reps. Adrienne Martini and Andrew Stammel, both of Oneonta, and Andrew Marietta, Cooperstown/Town of Otsego. She will have to run for a full term next November.
All the Republicans voted aye, for a margin of 9-3. There was one abstention – Michelle Farwell, D-Morris. The weighted vote was 4156-1,035.
Mickle, who was Oberacker’s choice to succeed him, is a partner in Oneonta’s United Student Rentals, which she owns with husband Ron. A longtime Maryland resident, she has chaired the town’s Board of Assessment Review. She also chaired the Northern Otsego Relay for Life committee.
SCHENEVUS – After a week of political wrangling, two women – one Republican, one Democrat – have emerged as prospective successors to state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, on the county board.
The Republican is Jennifer Mickle, an Oneonta businesswoman who lives in the Town of Maryland, where she has chaired the town Board of Assessment Review.
The Democrat is Diane Addesso, former Worcester town supervisor who operates a graphic-design studio there.
County Rep. Meg Kennedy, C-Hartwick/Milford/New Lisbon, who chairs the county board’s Administration Committee, scheduled a special Admin meeting for 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 30, after Democrats called the process hurried and unfair.
“My goal in having that meeting,” she said Tuesday, Nov. 24, “is to allow the questions and answers for both candidates … even if it doesn’t come to a vote.”
She added, “The process did not allow both sides to be heard, and I’m trying to remedy that.”
What followed was set in motion Monday, Nov. 16, when Oberacker resigned from his District 6 county board seat.
The next evening, county Republican Chairman Vince Casale convened a meeting of District 6 Republican committee members, and they endorsed Mickle, Oberacker’s choice to succeed him.
Wednesday, www.AllOTSEGO.com reported the news, and Democrats responded with dismay that they weren’t briefed. “I had to read about it on AllOTSEGO.com,” one of the Democratic reps said at the Thursday Admin meeting.
That day, Admin Committee members and county reps in attendance from both parties participated in a Zoom interview with Mickle. The committee then voted 3-1, along party lines, to send her name to the full board at its next meeting Dec. 2.
That evening, the county Democratic Committee convened and selected Addesso as its choice to succeed Oberacker. And the next morning, Kennedy announced her decision to vet Addesso as well.
“Hearing from both sides, and giving the opposition ample time to field a candidate and vet them is the right and fair thing to do,” said Democratic County Chairman Clark Oliver, D-Oneonta, on hearing the news.
Casale demurred, saying both Republicans and Democrats knew on Nov. 3, Election Day, that Oberacker would have to resign. “The Democrats are acting as if they are victims to politics, when they are actually victims of their own ineptitude and lack of planning,” he said.
In an interview, Mickle, who operates United Student Rentals with her husband, Ron, and chairs the Northern Otsego Relay for Life Committee, said joining the county board would be “a wonderful opportunity. I’ve always believed in public service and giving back to the community. I hope my experience will not only be a benefit to District 6, but to the county as a whole.”
In another interview, Addesso said that, while Worcester town supervisor, she streamlined polling places from four to one. That, in addition to her predecessor buying a gravel pit as a savings measure, led to a state citation for good governance. Kennedy said she isn’t sure if the second Admin meeting will achieve anything concrete, since the committee has already recommended Mickle to the county board. The committee’s makeup is three Republicans, two Democrats.
An added wrinkle: With Oberacker having resigned, neither Republicans nor Democrat have a majority of votes. If no Democrat will vote with the Republicans, Mickle can be confirmed.
If that happens, County Attorney Ellen Coccoma has ruled the reps would have to petition Governor Cuomo for a special election, but there’s no guarantee he would OK it.
District 6 is considered a Republican district, so if Mickle had to wait until next November’s election, she might have an advantage.
The county Board of Elections reports there are 1,624 Republicans in District 6, compared to 789 Democrats.
However, there are other voting parties as well: Conservatives (72), Working Families (11), Green (13), Libertarian (15), Independence (225), non-affiliated (704) and “other” (3).
SCHENEVUS – Republican county committee members from the county board’s District 6 met last evening and nominated Jennifer Mickle, a Town of Maryland resident and Oneonta businesswoman, to succeed state Senator-elect Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, on the county board.
The candidate, who also has experience in local government and community service, called it “a wonderful opportunity. I’ve always believed in public service and giving back to the community. I hope my experience will not only be a benefit to District 6, but to the county as a whole.”
COOPERSTOWN – Peter Oberacker, elected state senator on Nov. 3, will be leaving the Otsego County Board Dec. 31 at the latest and is blocked by the county board’s Rules of Order from voting on his
Absent bipartisanship, that creates a deadlock.
There are 6,228 “weighted votes” distributed among the 14 county reps, and without Oberacker’s 534 votes, the Republicans don’t have the 3,115-vote majority to fill his seat unilaterally.
Democrats control 2,807 weighted votes, also insufficient to fill the seat.
County Board chair David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, anticipates things may fall into place.
“There will be a couple of candidates brought forth by the committees,” he said. “A couple of people have reached out to me. Pete has someone he’s likely to recommend. I would take his recommendation highly, just as we did when Senator Seward recommended Pete.”
Since Republicans dominate in Oberacker’s District 6 (Schenevus, Worcester, Westford and Decatur), the GOP town committees there should propose his successor, in the view of county Republican Chairman Vince Casale.
“The people of that district overwhelmingly elected a Republican to represent them,” said Casale. “I don’t see any reason why the board wouldn’t work together to replace the representative in the will
of the voters.”
The county Democratic chairman, Clark Oliver, who is also county rep from District 11, Oneonta’s East End, said the county board rarely makes decisions on strictly party lines, and he hopes it follows that precedent here.
“What I’m hopeful for is that we will agree to appoint a candidate with some sort of bipartisan support,” he said. “If there seems to be a clear path forward, I assume somebody will break the tie.”
Meanwhile, “In the planning process, it would seem Republicans would want to bring Democrats into the discussion.”
Asked about a Dec. 2 decision, Bliss replied, “That’s possible.”
It would depend when Oberacker decides to resign, he said. Rule 6 of the board’s Rules of Order calls for a replacement to be made within 30 days of a resignation, Bliss said, adding he’s not sure if that’s a guideline or has the force of law.
Despite having seven county reps to the Republicans’ five (plus one Conservative, Meg Kennedy of Hartwick, Milford and New Lisbon), the Democrats – four from the City of Oneonta’s smaller districts – only control 2,807 votes, well short of a majority.
The first forum on the issue will be the county board’s Administration Committee, which will meet at 9 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 19.
Kennedy, who chairs Admin, said she likes Casale’s proposal. “I hope people would be agreeable. I hope the county board as a whole could respectfully agree to the local people’s choice.”
In the 2019 county board election, Oberacker was unopposed, and garnered 884 votes, vs. 11 write-ins.
In 2017, when challenged by Democrat Chad McEvoy, Westford, Oberacker chalked up a 1,007-701 victory.
According to the Rules of Order, the Republican and Democratic county committees may each recommend a replacement to Oberacker, but county board members and, presumably others, can do so as well.
Casale said he will convene a meeting of the 8-9 District 6 committee members shortly. Oliver said the Democratic Committee also will meet on the 19th.
“I don’t think there’s any reason to let the people of that district go without representation,” Casale said. “Why not do it sooner rather than later?”